The central headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party’s newspaper, Tareeq Al-Shaab (People’s Path), was raided Mar. 26 and searched by Iraq’s federal police force under what the Communists say was a “shoddy pretext.”
The government police entered the building in central Baghdad to conduct what they called a “search operation,” claiming that it was part of general security measures being taken in order to prepare for the Arab Summit.
Their actual target, however, was basically a piece of old scrap metal – the remains of an old weapon left behind during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The federal police described it as a “dangerous weapon” and proceeded to arrest 12 workers who were in charge of security at the newspaper’s headquarters.
Following the arrests, a second group of police rushed into the building and ransacked offices of party leaders. Police held detained workers blindfolded overnight and did not release them until the following day.
The attack on the Communist newspaper office occurred just before the eve of the Iraqi Communist Party’s 78th anniversary, which is on Mar. 31.
The party, which has a long history of fighting for a secular Iraq, in which the rights of all groups would be respected, has expressed its outrage and has openly condemned the raid.
The party asks that those responsible for the attack be brought to justice, and said, in ta statement, that “the police will not stop Tareeq Al-Shaab from defending the rights of the Iraqi people and workers, nor will it stop those people from fighting for a free, democratic Iraq.”
This is not the first time the Iraqi Communist Party has been targeted by the U.S.-backed government that replaced the old dictatorship. In 2007, Najim Abed Jassem, the party workers’ trade union leader and member of the executive committee of the Mechanics Union, was abducted and tortured by militias in Baghdad, and subsequently murdered.
According to U.S. Labor Against the War, that attack also occurred just before an anniversary of the founding of the party.
Tareeq Al-Shaab called it, at the time, “an abhorrent crime” and noted Jassem’s “passion for his people, homeland, and working class, for which he struggled to achieve their just rights and a better life.”
A book titled Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, written by Abdullah Muhsin and Alan Johnson, focuses on the fact that Iraqi workers and their struggles are rarely discussed – and often ignored in Western circles. The book adds that few outside the Arab world know that the Iraqi working class is well organized and highly politically engaged.
The book focuses on the life of Iraqi trade union and Communist Party leader Hadi Saleh, who was tortured and sentenced to death during the time Saddam Hussein rose to power in the late 70s, whereupon the trade unions were abused as a means for the government to spy on workers.
Saleh was murdered in his Baghdad home in 2005, by someone his fellow communists believed to be Hussein supporters. His murder prompted a large outcry by trade union leaders around the world.
John Sweeney, then-president of the AFL-CIO, celebrated Saleh’s dedication to the movement, and remarked, “He will be sorely missed by all of us who have met him, and by the workers for whom he valiantly fought.”